When Pope Francis prays “for the victims of abuse,” who are the victims? Are they children or adults? What injustices are pointed out? Is it sexual violence, abuse of authority, manipulation, or complicit silence? Who are the authors of the abuse? Priests, religious, or consecrated persons? Nothing is ever specified. Some will want to recognize ecclesial language in what Pope Francis says, which does not want to call a spade a spade, trivializing the acts committed and inflicting new wounds because of its insignificance.
However, the pope does not hold a trial here, but instead invites everyone to pray for all those who suffer and seek to open a new path of reconciliation. He knows the gravity of what has happened and is happening in the Church.
The first victims to think of are the children whose innocence has been trampled on; those whose trust has been betrayed. May they find the words to let everything come to light. There is also the suffering of loved ones. There is the anger of those who are disgusted. In a different way, there is the suffering of those who know that they have hurt, the suffering of those who had the responsibility to intervene and who did not do it or who did it badly. There is also the suffering experienced because of a betrayal of the Gospel message and how members of the Church responded.
In the word “all” used by the pope, we mean that no one comes out unscathed from these evils. Who hasn’t been hurt, or who hasn’t been offended? May an immense silent cry seize us all! Jesus in his suffering joins them all. May the grace also be given to everyone to weep bitterly when they meet the gaze of the Beloved. Then the Church herself will find a concrete answer in the One who saves her.
Fr. Daniel Régent, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (France)